Von Miller Calls for NFL Owners to ‘Walk the Walk’ in Support of Social Justice

Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller joiuns teammates to take part in a rally in the Greek Amphitheatre in Civic Center Park over the death of George Floyd Saturday, June 6, 2020, in downtown Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

David Zalubowski/Associated Press

Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller says he is hopeful that the outrage and unrest sparked by the killing of George Floyd result in structural change against racism and discrimination against black people that did not happen in similar situations in the past. 

Miller shared his thoughts in an op-ed for Time

“Many of us have seen this day coming, but let’s not get it twisted. The social upheaval we are witnessing is not about one horrific incident in Minneapolis. This has been building up for years, decades, generations. We can either confront it for what it is and make it an inflection point in the arc of our nation’s history, or we can become complicit in the perpetuation of our disease because we refuse to admit we are ill. This time may be different. I pray that it is different. This time, many of the protesters are not black. This time, the entire country is engaged. This time, the entire world has taken notice. We have really begun to talk with each other, not just ‘at’ each other. If we can find the strength to come together as a people and fight for healing and change, then together we can enjoy the sunshine of our American ideals. If we do not choose this course, we can expect the darkness to remain.”

Floyd died in police custody on May 25 when Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes during an arrest. In video footage that went viral the week of his killing, Floyd is heard telling Chauvin he cannot breathe.

Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Two pathologists have determined Floyd’s death was a homicide. Three additional officers who were involved with the arrest were fired and charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.   

Miller, who has asthma, also explained the impact of knowing any time he’s needed assistance when he couldn’t breathe, he’s always received help, but George Floyd didn’t, which made him reflect on the effect racism has had on him since a young age.

“I cannot even imagine what it would be like to get no help. Since George Floyd died, tears have overcome me at least once a day,” Miller wrote. “And then, as I thought about it, I have felt this pain in varying degrees for as far back as I can remember—at least since the first time I was called a n—-r in elementary school. The pain sears me every day, now. It’s an emotional pain. It’s a physical pain. It is the pain of oppression in a country that’s supposed to be free.”

Protesters have poured into the streets across the world since Floyd’s death to demonstrate against police brutality and racial discrimination against black people.

Floyd’s killing has been compared to that of Eric Garner in 2014. Like Floyd, Garner repeatedly told New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo he could not breathe while being placed in a chokehold. No criminal charges were filed against Pantaleo, leading to widespread outcry across the United States, including in the world of sports. 

Colin Kaepernick began peacefully protesting during the national anthem in the 2016 season. While many players have joined him, Kaepernick was vilified in some NFL circles for leading an issue that was divisive to fans. Kaepernick has not been signed by an NFL team since opting out of his 49ers contract after the 2016 season. 

While the NFL has been more supportive in wake of the current protests—commissioner Roger Goodell posted a video Friday saying the league was wrong in its attempts to quell peaceful demonstrations—Miller wants to see follow through with actions. 

“While it’s great that the NFL made an official statement in support of Black Lives Matter and the right to peaceful protest, it will ultimately be up to the team owners to put league policy into action and walk the walk,” Miller wrote. 

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